Saturday, February 28, 2009

THE BRIDGE: PREDICTION OF BOONDOGGLE AND DEBACLE

My column (14 Feb) on The Bridge--mainly, its mistaken definition of the problem (dropouts) and its misdirected idea of a solution (technical and vocational, or TV, school)--has provoked dismay in high places. I am not surprised. In light of a Las Cruces Sun-News editorial endorsing its efforts some months ago, its members probably expected widespread approval. So my column surprised and upset them with its scrutiny and skepticism.

Some members or supporters of The Bridge complained that I did not credit it for the diversity of its membership. I did mention that its members do include leaders from the business, economic development, government, and education constituencies. Even so, some diversity: members are the self-selecting, mutually interlocking elites operating in secret and excluding others.

Some complained that I did not credit The Bridge for its openness to ideas. Some openness: given its secret meetings which exclude the public and reporters, no one would suspect it of being open to anything, people or ideas. Moreover, its members have long since agreed on the problem and a solution; you can read its 2009 position on a 2007 NMSU website.

The point of its clandestine operation is the involvement of government and education leaders--some City Council and School Board members, and some senior Las Cruces and District staff--to grease the skids for a boondoggle and a debacle. The boondoggle will be a school bond issue to buy a powerful developer's land and build a school by preferred construction firms. The debacle will be a TV school destined to fail. It will select and segregate poor or problem students; assign them mediocre teachers of state-required, but watered-down, subjects; and, ironically, perpetuate the present regime of dropouts or poorly educated graduates--and thereby handicap them if they later wish to change careers or go to college.

Once the school is built and students enrolled--"Mission Accomplished"--, members of The Bridge will congratulate themselves and accept the praises of the populace for their "public" service. But, by the time the school fails, they will have moved on, letting the District take the blame for failing to make a success of their efforts.